There was one overwhelming positive, and a day that no Reading fan will ever forget - Saturday 18th April 2015, the day the Royals played in the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 1927. Revisionist historians will point to the kind draw (no Premier League teams) that enabled us to reach that stage but with the team performing so poorly in the league (more on that later obviously), it was testament to the players and the staff that they could perform in these games. And how - taking Arsenal to extra-time, with only a goalkeeping gaffe potentially keeping us from a final berth... A magical ride that ended all too suddenly but provided optimism and fervor amongst the despair of the league form.
The league form which was generally poor, but at times gave hope that Reading might again be on the rise under the Scot. Clarke's first game in charge was a 1-0 defeat at home to ten-man, eventually-promoted Watford, but after that he took the Royals on a run of nine games with just one defeat - and that 2-1 loss at Fulham was extremely harsh on the away side. And when this season clicked into gear at the end of August, it was spectacular - six Championship wins in seven, including a thumping 5-1 defeat of Ipswich Town live on television, to supposedly announce the rebirth of Reading Football Club. Unfortunately, that form was far too inconsistent, and those moments of hope far too sporadic.
In terms of transfers, every manager is going to hit on some and miss on others, but a couple stand out. Nathaniel Chalobah was a fine footballer who transformed the side and looked light years ahead of the competition in terms of awareness and ability. Paul McShane has come in and shown himself to be the experienced, calming influence this side needed to stop leaking goals and turn things around. Stephen Quinn seems to have had a larger impact on the team with his absence, as the Royals looked increasingly weak in the centre of the park without the Irishman. The rest of his signings have been largely hit and miss, and additionally the squad is currently burdened with a sudden backlog of wingers but a lack of cover in the central midfield zone.
And Clarke also deserves some credit for his development of a couple of footballers, most notably Michael Hector and Aaron Tshibola. The former's form may have dipped off alarmingly in recent weeks, but the transformation in Hector from the Adkins era to the Clarke era was stunning, most notably in that match against the Gunners - the Jamaican is now, of course, on loan from Chelsea after Jose Mourinho saw enough in him to take a punt. And Tshibola is another player who came from just about nowhere to show that, at the very least, he's a capable catalyst in midfield and one who the Royals are missing now that he's sidelined.
Unfortunately for Clarke, the form that Reading showed was far too sporadic for him to be safe from criticism and eventually, dismissal. 44 league games under the Scot, with an overall record of 13 wins, 13 draws and 18 defeats - so 52 points, or 54 if you extrapolate to a full 46-game season. That's lower Championship form, and despite the fact that many Royals fans were happy to write off last season in lieu of financial turmoil and an underwhelming squad, it just wasn't enough.
Let's start with last season - the FA Cup run was sensational, but it masked serious shortcomings in a Reading team that was poor but by no means relegation-worthy, and in the end finished 19th, just nine points clear of the drop zone. The last ten Championship matches of 2014/15 yielded just one victory, and that was a completely surprising 3-0 win at Derby County that took the Rams out of play-off contention. Home fans sat through the last 446 minutes of the season without seeing a Reading goal (a run which would continue into 2015/16), giving reason to understand why the crowds were turning away.
And into this campaign... well, those blanks at home kept coming until we demolished Ipswich 5-1. That was the second in a run of six wins in seven, but outside of that streak, it's been just one win in 12 for Reading, which is hardly the consistent form teams generally need to escape to the Premier League (one obvious outlier being Brian McDermott's Reading side of 2011/12). That winning form dropped off alarmingly, most notably with a capitulation at Fulham which saw the Royals go from 2-0 up to 3-2 down in the space of five minutes. From there, performances went downhill.
The last three games sum up quite nicely why - in many minds - Clarke had to leave. A 2-1 win over bottom side Bolton Wanderers that was far closer and tenser than it should have been. A 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest; the first time Forest had scored three in a game all campaign. And the death knell, a 1-0 loss at home to QPR; the Fake Hoops' first away win since August. Cold hard facts and statistics that reveal a serious deficiency at Reading.
Of course, Clarke might have left the Royals two weeks earlier to join Fulham, when it was revealed he was close to moving to Craven Cottage, then the move was suddenly off. Some argued that the whole sorry saga should just be forgotten; for others it was plainly clear that this was still a betrayal despite his apparent decision to remain just outside the M25. The lack of support for Clarke was deafening in its silence - no chants of Steve Clarke's Barmy Army, no requests for waves from the fans. The trust had gone.
So there we are, the positives and negatives of Steve Clarke's reign as we saw them. But how do you feel about his time at the club overall, not just at the moment? Vote below. Previous ratings and key moments of his reign are below (and you can click for a larger version).